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Monday, April 4, 2011

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Jules Helm, Ballroom Dance Teacher of Stepping Out Studios, Actor, Dancer and Director

Jules Helm currently shares his craft with others by teaching movement & dance to actors at the William Esper Studio and ballroom dance at Stepping Out Studios, performing as an actor and dancer in film, TV, and on stage, and directing plays for the theater. His current passion is directing and editing Film Noir the steamy story by Allan Knee (author of Finding Neverland) about a couple caught in New York’s sleazy underworld of passion and turmoil, crime and betrayal.

Jules kicked around the world for many years as a Cabaret & Ballroom Dancer until he found Home… New York City! The only city in the world where he is truly able to realize his performing arts dreams.

At the age of 5 Jules already knew he had to work in show business and ultimately make movies! But after his parents moved from inner city Chicago to rural Oregon, the young boy found his fantasy seemingly out of reach. The hopelessness of the situation only made him more determined. He refused to take “no” for an answer and no matter where he was or what resources he lacked, he was working his craft – which in some cases didn’t go over so well. Grade school teachers where not fond of his stand up act during class time. He was more successful with these theatrical antics when he made short films & comedy sketch videos with friends... even when his friends wanted to do other things & Jules still wanted to make movies!

But no matter what, Jules’ burning drive kept him moving and shaking. At age 12 he convinced his mom to let him try his shtick at a free open mic contest. Like a deer in the headlights, he froze! The next day, in answer to his prayers, he saw Michael Jackson on TV and an idea was born – lip sync contests! This time the kid didn’t freeze, no he spun, twirled, and although he barely knew the words to Billie Jean and his Moon Walk was mediocre the audience cheered, screamed and applauded! He loved the attention (especially from some of the 20-something female audience members!) He was hooked on dance!
That fall he received a full scholarship at a local a dance studio. This was his ticket to freedom, and he was in the studio endlessly, graduating from high school early and hitting the road at 17 to say "Hello Hollywierd!" Lost in the sea of sharks, he stumbled into the sexy hot world of Latin partner dance. Barely managing to survive on countless jobs from hell, he still scraped together enough bread to do extensive coursework in filmmaking at USC, UCLA, UW and AFI.

With only a few small projects under his belt, tired of endlessly hustling, and beginning to lose hope… he reached a turning point in his life when a friend showed him Sandy Meisner's book on acting and the famed Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Fascinated, he felt there was something powerful -- almost sacred -- in the work of all who had studied this technique. Jules wanted that confidence, clarity and skill in his work.

It took 10 years and a lot of life drama but he finally decided to stop wandering the world and get the life-changing foundation he needed to achieve his creative goals.

Jules was New York bound! For him, 2001 would become his rebirth of hope, as he was accepted into the world-renowned studio of Meisner student William Esper, a dream fit where he poured his heart and soul out.

Yet that same year brought deep tragedy for New York. On 9/11, hearing of the disaster at the World Trade Center and knowing in his gut this was an act of terrorism, as a form of protest he grabbed his camera and ran four miles downtown to record the event for the world and bring awareness to the senseless loss of life.

This is the primary reason Jules has such a fascination with life and art -- he hopes that it will inspire people to think, and maybe evolve and act with just a bit more humanity.

Just as the City has, Jules too has continued on, but will never forget.  We are so pleased to present him as our latest Mover and Shaker.

Peachy Deegan interviewed Jules Helm for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first dancing memory?
Jules Helm:  I’m not sure which was first they were all about the same time; My Dad dancing with me in his arms listening to the Rolling Stones and Janis Joplin, my Mom upstairs in her home business teaching belly dancing to groups of woman in the front room, or my grandmother forcing me to join in her Square Dance calling group.

What kind of people are predisposed to dance well?
Dance is for everyone, all people need to do is just breathe, relax, play and sway…it’s therapy for the soul.

Do you enjoy acting or teaching more and what do you like about each?
Honestly, playing. In my experience creativity, freedom and great work come from a loving playful place whether it’s acting, teaching, dancing or directing. If I had a favorite occupation I wouldn’t be true to the others. I believe play is an essential ingredient to keep us present no matter what we embark on.

What is your favorite dance to perform and why?
One I know well, what I mean by that is a dance that’s is so rehearsed its second nature, it’s in your blood. I love to be out of my head, no thought, just present moving & reacting moment by moment. The better the preparation the freer you become. And this goes for the improvisational dance as well, when you prepare your body and know where to place your attention (the music, your partner and the space) the depth of your experience has no limits.

What is your favorite dance to teach and why?
Much of the dance work I do has to do with human contact and interaction. I like popular social dances like Salsa and Argentine Tango because there are plenty of places anyone can go out and enjoy a night out dancing with others. Another reason I’m drawn to the Latin Dances is the way in which they powerfully exhibit passion, sexiness and intensity between the partners.

What should most people know about dancing that most do not?
Not to be too serious, breathe, and to put the resistance down and just jump in, you never know what you’ll discover you might actually like it!

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
I don’t know so many influences; Bob Fosse, William Esper, my parents, the kids that made fun of me in grade school, and a little voice in my head that says you can always go a little further…it’s all part of a big mix that makes me aspire to do great work.

What are you proudest of and why?
I could give a list of credits, or highlight moments from my past, but I hate to undermine the present. I think the work I’m proudest of is the projects of the moment. Presently I am loving the directing & editing of the Allan Knee film Filmnoir. I’m honored to be teaching & hopefully inspiring the students whether at William Esper Studio, Stepping Out Studio or individually. The hook for me has not to do with external achievement but the internal fulfillment and growth that each student experiences.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
One of my dreams is to direct a powerful film that incorporates song, dance, and an amazing story!

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
I have a few dance trophies, some movie credits, graduated from a few things but the honor I’d really like to share is the fact that I’ve come from economic & emotional struggle and managed to find a place in the world where I serve a purpose and can be part of maybe making the world a little brighter place each and everyday, literally one step at a time.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
The theater or a rehearsal studio.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?

What is your favorite drink?
Depends…Red Wine in winter and Frozen Cosomo’s on hot summer nights.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
Extra Virgin…I love the way it’s tucked into the West Village. Peaceful, good food, and great atmosphere.

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
Breakfast at Tiffany’s

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
A diner in the middle of it all. Why? Hardy food, traditional New York ambience, great place to meet and plan your dreams.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
I love riding my bike everywhere around Manhattan, exploring the neighborhoods and how quickly the vibe’s change, it’s like going from one country to another to another. But a secret thrill is negotiating traffic at rush hour. It makes me feel so free not to be stuck like everyone else in the gridlock. And Yes, I wear my helmet and have a lot more courtesy than some of the those messengers.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Go to the gym, post office, see a show, eat out, teach, work on a film, take a nap, go to an audition or 2, have coffee with a friend all in the same day. 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
I love to laugh till I cry, recently, I saw Mark Rylance in Le Bete…Wow, ooo did I laugh till I cried. Mark Rylance in my opinion is one of the freest funniest actors on stage. I can’t wait to see him in the upcoming play Jerusalem. 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
Awareness and humanity, the only way I can give it back it to continually be in pursuit of a better understanding myself.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Most overrated any new construction without a design sense. Most underrated, a walk in the park!

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
Cycling Peachy…It’s great fun, it’s as close to flying as I’ll ever come and everyone ought to be doing.

Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not? 
I’ve had The Peachy Deegan…mmm yummy & smooth! I look forward to having more!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I love to laugh.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? or 917-328-3586

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